Hartman: Expect NBA teams to be aggressive in draft

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 19, 2014 - 12:18 AM

Wolves boss Flip Saunders says that with a deep pool of talent, Tuesday’s lottery might lead to a lot of deals.

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All-Star forward Kevin Love represented the Timberwolves at the NBA draft lottery a year ago.

Photo: Jason DeCrow, Associated Press

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The NBA will hold the draft lottery Tuesday and, according to Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, this will be the deepest draft in some time, with many underclassmen turning pro.

“Everybody is talking about the top players like [Kansas’ Andrew] Wiggins and [Duke’s Jabari] Parker and [Kansas’ Joel] Embiid, but the draft is really deep,” Saunders said. “What I mean by that is some players that might be taken at 15 or 16 this year, last year they may have been a top-five player in the draft.

“So it’s going to be a very deep draft, you’ll see a lot of movement with teams. I think a lot of teams, if you can get two players in the lottery, some teams think they can really make a big jump in their talent pool with their roster. So you’re going to see a very aggressive draft day, similar to what you saw here in football these last few days.”

Saunders pointed out that if the Phoenix Suns somehow jump from No. 14 into the top three of the lottery, the Wolves would lose their draft pick because of a trade then-General Manager David Kahn made involving Phoenix and New Orleans in July 2012, a salary cap-clearing move in which the Wolves sent swingman Wesley Johnson and a first-round pick to the Suns for three second-round picks. The Wolves currently are slotted at No. 13.

“We’ve never had a whole lot of luck in the lottery, so hopefully sometime you get a little bit of luck,” Saunders said. “Our chances of moving up aren’t great, but we’re in the lottery and hopefully we don’t move down, that’s the main thing.”

On another subject, Saunders was asked when the Wolves can start signing free agents, such as Robbie Hummel.

“We’re going to make a lot of decisions come draft day, and we don’t have to do anything with him until July 1,” Saunders said. “So depending on what happens on the lottery, we will find out where we draft, or if we lose our pick because of the trade from [2012], then we’ll make decisions after the draft on what we’re going to do. The draft day could change our roster in a lot of different ways, so we’re going to be pretty patient.”

How many free agents do you have to sign?

“We don’t have that many,” Saunders said. “Robbie Hummel is pretty much it, and Dante Cunningham, those are the two guys that are free agents, and everybody else is under contract. Some of those guys are definitely in our plans, and some guys, if there’s an opportunity to make our team better, we’ll do that. We’ll be pretty aggressive on what we try to do.”

How is the Wolves’ salary cap situation for next year?

“We’re not going to be in a situation to have room under the cap to go sign somebody,” he said. “We’ll have our midlevel exception to do something and our exceptions. Nothing is going to be done where we’ll have a lot of room under the cap to go sign them. It’s basically because of the contracts when you consider what we have with [Kevin] Love, what we have with [Nikola] Pekovic, we’re looking forward to what we do with [Ricky] Rubio, and some of the other players we have. We’ll have to use our exceptions to bring players in.”

Is there a timetable on the search for a coach to replace Rick Adelman?

“No, it’s the same type thing, once we’ve just done some preliminary stuff,” Saunders said. “Glen [Taylor, Wolves owner] has been very tied up with the [Clippers owner Donald] Sterling situation, Glen being the chairman of the board, so he’s really spending a lot of time with that. Now that that is … progressing, we’ll probably have some more talk about [the new coach]. But like I said about the draft and lottery, we want to see where we are in that, maybe we get lucky and get in the top three, maybe we get unlucky and don’t. But we want to get that known before we progress forward.”

Kept on scholarship

After Gophers football recruits Peter Westerhaus and Connor Cosgrove had ailments that prevented them from playing after they were given scholarships, Westerhaus with ulcerative colitis and Cosgrove with leukemia, coach Jerry Kill kept both on full scholarships. They received all the benefits healthy players receive.

The other day, Cosgrove had an event to celebrate his remission, and Westerhaus showed up to help celebrate.

“Pete is just a tremendous kid. I think those kids have helped each other a lot,” Kill said. “Pete is a great kid and he’s had a tough situation and you just feel so bad. But I will tell you that through his battle, he has been mentally tough and he’s helped all of us in how he’s handled it. He’s continuously going to have a battle here for a while, but I’m proud of him.

“His parents are great people. I would tell everybody that their prayers need to be out there and help this kid. He’s a good kid.”

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